The 25 ft. sloop Martha McGilda, 5 ton, was built by Jack Chippendale at Warsash in 1953, the fifteenth English folkboat, and was purchased by the author Rozelle Raynes in 1956.
Born Lady Frederica Rozelle Ridgway Pierrepont on 17 November 1925, Rozelle, as she was always known, was the youngest child of Gervas Evelyn Pierrepont, MC, who succeeded his cousin as 6th Earl Manvers in 1940. From a young age Rozelle was fascinated by the sea, and as a teenager threatened with finishing school in Switzerland she secretly prayed for the war to last long enough for her to join the WRNS. Fortunately for her it did, and in August 1943 Rozelle joined up, later being appointed stoker on a tug boat carrying men and signals round Combined Ops bases in the Portsmouth Command. Her years in service were some of the happiest of her life, and she later recalled her adventures in Maid Matelot (1971).
On leaving the Wrens, Rozelle became a deck hand on a 100 ton Bermudan cutter, before being given a converted ship's lifeboat on her 21st birthday in which she explored the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland. On her first solo journey across the Channel the rudder snapped, so she sawed up the engine casing with a bread knife and fashioned a new one, lashed up with her suspender belt.
After buying Martha McGilda in 1956, Rozelle cruised extensively in the Baltic, writing an account in 1960 for Yachting Monthly of a mostly single-handed voyage from Dover to Finland. She later published a book about her adventures on Martha in A Boat called Martha (2001). It was in 1974 that Rozelle embarked on a bold social experiment with boys living in long-term care in the London Borough of Newham, where her husband Richard was working as a deputy medical officer. For half a day every fortnight she would take groups of boys out in the Martha McGilda on the Thames, teaching them the art of sailing and the practicalities of navigation. This 'experiment' proved so successful that in 1980 she established the Martha McGilda charitable trust to further the work. In her account of the project The Tuesday Boys (1991) she described how she and her husband also invited the boys to their house in Limehouse Reach, and to their country house on the edge of the white cliffs near Dover where they camped in the walled garden. Many of the boys she worked with became friends for life.
In 2003, Martha McGilda's 50th anniversary, Dawson's painting of Martha was used on the Royal Cruising Club's annual Christmas card with proceeds going to the Trust.